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Summerfest

I was running a computer Bulletin Board Service (BBS) called A Passage to Bangkok in 1994 when I first met KalenBorg. He was an online member of my BBS, an active member in the message areas, especially in movie and rock music forums. I quickly could tell by his writing he wasn't another dopey high school kid. Most of the BBSes were overloaded with goofy out of touch high school kids providing a bleak look into the future, like the future of an orphan with cancer and no college diploma.

About a week after KalenBorg first logged on, we got into chat mode and discussed music and movies. He liked Tarantino movies and hard rock. Earlier that week I discovered Ronnie James Dio was playing in Minneapolis at the Mirage TNT club, which is now just a bakery in northeast Minneapolis. I didn't have anyone to go up with, so I invited KalenBorg. At least I got gas money out of him.

We had a hell of a time trying to find the venue of the concert since neither of us knew that area of Minneapolis well. We saw the former Rainbow and Black Sabbath singer belt out songs like he was in a giant arena rather than a venue that held 400 people. KalenBorg and I saw Dio together again at the Target Center in 2007 when he was on his second reunion with Black Sabbath. Dio got pissed at people throwing garbage at him on stage, and he was only singing his songs from Sabbath at that concert. Amazing how you can see an artist perform excellent in one venue then just mail it in at another, I digress back to our story.

KalenBorg and I became fast friends and hung out while he was in Rochester. His family was very accommodating, having me over frequently, and feeding me occasionally  I never stayed long because the place was beyond messy. They may have had more kids than I met, they might have been hidden under massive piles of crap everywhere. I'd stop by for any special occasions, like when KalenBorg ordered Woodstock II (Woodstock ’94) on pay-per-view.

That messy house looked like a crack den in the inner city without the tweakers. They had so much stuff laying around on the floor, especially in the basement. You couldn’t tell where the carpet ended and linoleum started. One time when KalenBorg and I were watching Headbanger’s Ball or some similar hard rock on MTV when his little brother and sister came down and had to push crap piles aside and make a small clearing just so they’d have room to sit on the floor. It was pretty crazy, because they acted like it was just normal to push trash around so they could sit and watch TV.

Another time KalenBorg and I were hanging out when his Uncle George came over, as drunk as a Kennedy at an open bar. He had been out drinking wine that night and was unintelligible, but it sounded like he spent the night trying to pick up lesbians at the bar, a challenge when sober. That worked out for him about as well as a men's restroom at a Lilith Fair concert. It didn’t end well as a cop drove him back to the KalenBorg's house. For some reason he started trying to pick a fight with me? I had no idea why, but he was really getting under my skin. KalenBorg said I had shown more restraint than ever. KalenBorg’s mother loves me – I think partly because I didn't kick her brother’s ass that night.

One day I discovered KalenBorg had never seen Cheap Trick in concert. That's a high order crime for anybody that into rock music. They weren't as hardcore as most of the stuff KalenBorg listened to, but I explained to him as I still do,

“Have I ever steered you wrong?”

Cheap Trick had a hard edged, yet melodic sound combining tunefulness of The Beatles with the aggression of punk. Immediately an Internet search was conducted, pre-Google searching folks, for Cheap Trick concert dates.

The birth of a road trip, to Milwaukee, WI for Summerfest ‘95 was born! We made sure we were on the same page with degrees of sobriety, so we could share driving duties on the long haul. KalenBorg had a voracious appetite for Miller Lite Ice, and sometimes it created a situation where we couldn’t get home easily, and neither of us would drive drunk. One fun instance was when he was in a Lindsay Lohan type of drunken stupor. Another friend drove him home only to tell us later, he had a full conversation with his backpack in the backseat of his car. He was totally convinced it was a buddy of his from school in Minneapolis.

We made simple plans and left a day prior to the concert. We made it to La Crosse, about 90 miles from Rochester. We started drinking. La Crosse is a lot like AT&T cellular service, more bars in more places! We secured a place to stay for the night with KalenBorg’s sister. KalenBorg referred to this sister as Seacow. They never got along as children and the nickname stuck. She also looked like an actual Seacow.

Thanks to medical miracles and taxpayer funded gastric bypass she slimmed down a bit. Don't worry, she put it all back on a few years later. She’s still less than pleasant to be around, so without looks or personality she is a sad lonly seacow. She married one of those really angry liberals – the type who gets in your face and wants death to everyone that doesn't agree with every position he takes. He likes to tell you about all those special interest groups, how you were personally responsible for their lot in life. He’s a real fun guy at parties! Stupidity cannot be concealed.

KalenBorg’s sister (Seacow) was attending college at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and renting an old house with some other girls. She problably ate them at the end of the semester. She was mean spirited from the moment we showed up. KalenBorg and I ignored Seacow and went downtown to the Red Lantern tavern. We circled around to as many bars as possible, and back to the Red Lantern for last call. The normal bartender, Bernie, who played the liquor bottles was getting up there in years, so we missed his traditional show of playing drumsticks on the bottles during polka songs. We did have our fill of beer and the bar was closing, so we decided to head out. We finished the night by walking to Mr D’s for some cheap day-old doughnuts and then to Seacow’s place. We didn’t want to piss Seacow off any more than we already did, so we just slept on the front lawn to avoid making too much noise inside her house.

The next morning we slowly started to make our way to Milwaukee. I grew up in Wisconsin, but I had never been to Milwaukee. We found the Summerfest grounds easily and started milling about. Summerfest is a great time with several bandstands each sponsored by a different brand of beer. With so many bands and so many stages, there was a concert by somebody going on somewhere at all times. Also, the beer flowed easily, it's Wisconsin - remember?

We saw a few no-name bands play early, then we saw The James Young Band. James Young was a member of Styx, and they put a on great show. Cheap Trick played next, performing a full set, and Rick Neilson must have thrown more than a thousand guitar picks. There were so many pics thrown it was like watching Brett Favre. We had pretty good view, stage right with a slight summer chill off the lake to put the icing on that cake. It was a perfect evening.

We found the car and started to head back. As we started for Rochester we heard on the radio there was a shooting, right where we had been walking at Summerfest. We dodged a bullet, literally and figuratively.

This was one of the few road trips KalenBorg and I went on where we took his car. KalenBorg always has the other person drives, it allows him to get out of his mind drunk, and saved wear and tear on his vehicle. He is so cheap he buys two-ply toilet paper and splits the roll to make it last longer, he once drilled a hole in his refrigerator door, to check that the light goes off when the door is closed. His car was one of those really efficient 1988 Honda CRX 2-seater coffin-on-wheels. He had that same car when he got married, when a week later some gangsta wannabe eating ribs while driving in his uninsured SUV T-boned KalenBorg and almost killed him (coffin on wheels, remember). Gansta boy was pissed and sued KalenBorg’s insurance. The insurance company paid him $8K just to shut him up and go away. Sometimes there's no justice in the world.

So the convert was over, and you have the slow walk back to the car as you recall the cool songs played. The drive was a straight shot to Rochester along Interstate 90. KalenBorg hit the gas, set the auto-pilot and head back home, about a 6 hour drive in the dark along deer infested Wisconsin roads.

I don’t remember much about the first leg of the trip back – I was tired and tried to get a nap in so I could drive the second half. We’d been up since sunrise (remember we slept on Seacow’s front lawn), and it was now a little past 2:00am. KalenBorg was doing seventy when he sees a deer in the road. He tapped the breaks and ended up doing a 720 degree spin on the Interstate missing the deer by inches. KalenBorg said the deer actually smiled at him as he spun past him. A Honda CRX meeting 400 pound deer would not have ended well for us, my guess is the deer would have been fine.

After sitting in the car, stopped on the highway, we counted our blessings for not hitting the smiling deer, and for staying on the road surface. It was one of those time where you just need a few minutes to take stock of life and the choices you've made. We were both wide awake after the near miss. I took the wheel just outside Sparta, WI for the rest of the ride.

When we got back to KalenBorg’s place it was almost 7:00am and we were both dead tired. We crashed on the couch to watch TV for a few minute, only to see a couple people had been killed on the same highway we drove home on. They had hit a deer, and it went through the windshield. I wonder if it was the same deer that smiled at KalenBorg? At this point we thought we had a pretty good adventure, including beer, deer, and the rock music!

Jason’s mother came downstairs, so we figured we’d tell her our story of survival of a gang shooting in Milwaukee and the happy deer, and she’d make us food. We told her everything - the whole road trip including the stories about the shooting, the deer, and how we didn't wake Seacow when we came home late.

She wasn’t interested. All she wanted to do was to read us the riot act. Seacow had called to complain about KalenBorg and I sleeping on her front lawn. By the time Seacow finished she’d made it seem like we were zebra molesters about to go on a puppy strangling spree!

Lessons learned; Seacow will never make MY Christmas list and Never skip an opportunity to see Cheap Trick.

Saxon/Krokus/Cheap Trick – La Crosse Center – La Crosse, WI 1982
Loverboy/Cheap Trick – La Crosse Center – La Crosse, WI 1983
Cheap Trick – Mayo Civic Center - Rochester, MN 1988
Cheap Trick – Summerfest – Milwaukee, WI
Cheap Trick – Ostrich Fest – Chandler, AZ 1999
Cheap Trick – Renegades Bar & Grill - Savage, MN 8/26/2006